looked 'down from above on' [multiple prepositions]

irani11

Senior Member
Korean
Hi,

I am thinking of what is the "head" preposition among this sequence of prepositions.


"The boy looked down from above on his father's crew-cut, seeing the white scalp through the bristly hairs."


My question concerns the role of preposition used with the verb 'looked', so I assume the head preposition would go together with the verb.

And I ruled out 'from above' because they seem to me to be allowed to move. (looked down on his father's crew-cut from above) ..maybe?

so between 'down' and 'on' what would you say is the head of the sequence of prepositions that forms the essential meaning with 'looked'?

Is it 'looked down his father's crew-cut'?

or

Is it 'looked on his father's crew-cut'?


Thanks
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    There are three separate preposition phrases (PP) in the first clause: The boy looked [down] [from above] [on his father's crew-cut]. 'Down' simply indicates the direction, and could be used with other prepositions and idioms: He looked down into the hole; He looked down at the ground; He looked down through the water. There's nothing special about 'down' - it has its natural meaning here. Likewise, the PP 'from above' is separate (as you say) and indicates the direction more precisely.

    That leaves 'looked on his father's crew-cut', which is not idiomatic. 'Look on' is an archaic way of saying "look at", but is not natural today. But with the other prepositions intervening, it sounds much better: it sounds quite natural. Oh! But wait! I've just noticed I was wrong above. In fact it's 'down' that does this. From the tall window you can look [down] [on the street]. Without 'down', 'look on the street' isn't right. So we have an unusual two-prepositional verb idiom 'look' + 'down' + 'on . . .'
     

    irani11

    Senior Member
    Korean
    There are three separate preposition phrases (PP) in the first clause: The boy looked [down] [from above] [on his father's crew-cut]. 'Down' simply indicates the direction, and could be used with other prepositions and idioms: He looked down into the hole; He looked down at the ground; He looked down through the water. There's nothing special about 'down' - it has its natural meaning here. Likewise, the PP 'from above' is separate (as you say) and indicates the direction more precisely.

    That leaves 'looked on his father's crew-cut', which is not idiomatic. 'Look on' is an archaic way of saying "look at", but is not natural today. But with the other prepositions intervening, it sounds much better: it sounds quite natural. Oh! But wait! I've just noticed I was wrong above. In fact it's 'down' that does this. From the tall window you can look [down] [on the street]. Without 'down', 'look on the street' isn't right. So we have an unusual two-prepositional verb idiom 'look' + 'down' + 'on . . .'

    Every information you offered is so valuable and appreciated.
    I thought it was 'down', the head of phrase. I wanted to see which one native speaker would choose.

    Thank you, ETB~ ^^
     

    OMT

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Remember, too, that "to look down on" is an entirely different conceptual verb, meaning "to disapprove of," than "to look" is. So, "from above" is simply a redundancy thrown in there to indicate that the intended verb is "to look," while "down" and "on" are an adverb and preposition, respectively.
     

    irani11

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Remember, too, that "to look down on" is an entirely different conceptual verb, meaning "to disapprove of," than "to look" is. So, "from above" is simply a redundancy thrown in there to indicate that the intended verb is "to look," while "down" and "on" are an adverb and preposition, respectively.
    Thank you, OMT. Yes, it is the different version(?) of 'look down on' which does not mean 'to despise'
    Thanks for the assurence~
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    I think "down" in the original statement is actually an adverb. Prepositions have objects. At is a preposition only, so we can't say, "The boy looked at." He has to look at something. However, we can say "The boy looked up" or "The boy looked down."

    "Above" is also not a preposition. The grammarians or the ESL folks might have a name for a preposition functioning as a noun, but here we can consider it to be a noun, because it also is the object of a preposition (from). The boy could have looked down from the roof instead of down from above. So we have (prepositions in blue)

    The boy looked
    down [adverb]
    from above [prepositional phrase with object "above"]
    on his father's crewcut [prepositional phrase with object "his father's crewcut"]
     

    irani11

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I think "down" in the original statement is actually an adverb. Prepositions have objects. At is a preposition only, so we can't say, "The boy looked at." He has to look at something. However, we can say "The boy looked up" or "The boy looked down."

    "Above" is also not a preposition. The grammarians or the ESL folks might have a name for a preposition functioning as a noun, but here we can consider it to be a noun, because it also is the object of a preposition (from). The boy could have looked down from the roof instead of down from above. So we have (prepositions in blue)

    The boy looked
    down [adverb]
    from above [prepositional phrase with object "above"]
    on his father's crewcut [prepositional phrase with object "his father's crewcut"]
    I talked to my girl on the phone. so delayed my message. In my grammar book I am very much fond of, it tells a preposition can be modified by another preposition or prepositional phrase. I haven't yet tried to analyse the structure of the sentence at least within my capability, following the instruction of the book. But I can tell it looks very hard apparently. The reason I picked 'down' as the head was due to the following clause, which implies the boy is looking down. In your observation, would you suggest that structure be
    'Verb+adverb(=phrasal verb)+ 2 prepositional phrase'? (He came out from nowhere in a hurry?)
    but don't you feel this is the case of one prepositional phrase, by which I mean wouldn't you feel it as forming one semantic property, instead of two separate phrases ?
    well, very complicated, and even more after hearing your reasonable observation. Thank you~
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    "Down" can be omitted. We would still know what the boy was doing if the sentence read, "The boy looked from above on ..." We could also keep "down" and omit "from above" with no change in understanding: "The boy looked down on his father's crew-cut ..." Therefore, I don't think "down from above" is a single unit. I'm not sure that this answers your question, but I hope it helps you understand the structure of your sentence.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    "The boy looked down from above on his father's crew-cut, seeing the white scalp through the bristly hairs."

    The from above is completely unneccessary. He is just observing the hair from above...

    GF..

    OMT possibly has a point, but I would ignore it....
     
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